When I was goin’ over the Cork and Kerry mountains…
Shit, I can’t even read those words anymore.
When I was a little girl, I sat on the beach in Ireland, wearing my seventies swimming costume and clutching my bucket and spade. On the one side I had my Nanny, the most powerful, forthright and glorious woman a tiny child could wish for. On the other was the kindest, cheekiest, most handsome and funny man.
He was my Granddad. And tonight he died.
I’ve known this for only a few hours and have been processing the information. I can feel it in my skin and visualise it. My mind is cataloguing every tiny reference, deep seated memory and complex feeling I ever had in relation to the man whose shoulders I used to sit on while we read the newspapers, and who rescued me when I was most lost. It’s like watching a Rolodex flying and never stopping.
I remember him…
Sat in Nolan’s Bar, Rosscarbery. He was protesting because he didn’t want to sing. He sang.
Standing on the beach in Ireland, wearing classic, white seventies shorts. Looking handsome AF.
Driving through Bantry Bay and stopping for a chat because he saw someone for the first time in an hour (and watching Nanny’s expression of boredom). He loved a chat.
Gently laughing, with a Senior Service cigarette resting in the corner of his mouth, his hair falling over his handsome, tanned face.
On Sundays. Ohhh, Sundays. Irish Folk at ear-splitting decibels, trips to the pub and Sunday roasts with as many people as you could squeeze into a three bed, end-terrace council house.
Comforting tiny me as I stood at his bedside, morbidly fascinated by the thick cord of sutures holding his chest together after his heart bypass.
Being respectful of his mother. And shouting out the back door of her house in Skibbereen, so that I would come inside to eat. She made boiled bacon and cabbage. Vom.
Banging like hell on the door of the Angler’s Rest in Ross, because he was late home and Nanny was fierce. I say “fierce”, but “incandescent with rage” was probably more accurate. You slept in the car and talked her round the next day. Eventually.
Holding my hand when we all sat talking to Eileen as she entered the last stages of her life. We watched re-runs of Dallas. We weren’t really watching.
Eating Erin Irish Potato Soup. Under the face of Jesus, sat at a Formica-topped table.
Picking me up from the train station at 7am with a solemn look of “I know what you’ve been up to”. That was enough.
Having laughing arguments with Nanny. Bloody woman.
Bollocking me for worrying her, without her knowing.
Always telling me off for getting the drinks in.
Giggling with my daughter and looking at her with the most absolute, unconditional love.
I’m never going to stop processing this. I have 42 years worth of memories that are going to spectacularly explode eventually. I can’t quite get my shit around reality yet.
This post is my self-indulgence and my sadness. It’s also my therapy and I’m going to look at it in the morning through hungover, shocked eyes and remember how much I’ve missed and how this doesn’t remotely do justice to the man I thought I’d marry when I was a toddler.
I regret not singing Whisky in the Jar with you, just one last time, Granddad.
But this isn’t about me. This is about a man who many, many, MANY people love.
And who are also crying tonight.